From the Highlands of Scotland to the Montezuma Hills of California
The Hamilton and Cook families were originally from the Isle of Arran, Scotland, before moving to New Brunswick, Canada after the Highland “Clearances”. With hopes of achieving better profits for their farming and livestock, a few of these families moved again, this time to the Montezuma Hills of California, close to the newly established town of Rio Vista. In the late 1860’s James Hamilton began farming in the Montezuma Hills and was joined by Peter Hamilton in 1870. These two entrepreneurs farmed together and later each married daughters of Neil and Mary Currie Cook.
James and Margaret (Maggie) lived in the same ranch house that is lived in today by the fourth and fifth generations of their family. This Hamilton Ranch was eventually run by their sons; James, Ivan, and Neil. These three brothers farmed together until the early 1940s.
Neil and his bride Eva Pressley lived in the ranch house and raise their three sons: Neil Jr., Burrows (Pep), and David. Eva and Neil farmed together until Neil’s death in 1943. Eva, a graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, ran the ranch with the help of her very young sons and kind neighbors.
Eva eventually turned over the reins to her industrious three sons who returned to the Hamilton Brothers business title. These amazing men grew their business to support their growing families. For decades they experimented with different farming techniques, crops and livestock genetics. They worked closely with Dr. Eric Bradford, Geneticist at U C Davis developing a sheep breed that thrives in California’s climate. They worked with Nature Conservancy to protect the Jepson Prairie. On Ryer Island, they grew sugar beets, almonds and asparagus in addition to the tomatoes, wheat, and alfalfa. Burrows’ son Richard became a partner of Hamilton Brothers in 1990.
After Burrows death in 2013, Neil Jr. decided that he wished to retire from Hamilton Brothers in 2014. David and Richard continued Hamilton Brothers with their new partner Stacy Hamilton, Rich’s wife.